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Friday, December 17, 2010

OnLive: The future is here

Remember Pong?

Don't answer that. Unless you want everyone to know how ancient you are. OK, what were we talking about? Where's my dentures?

Anyway, if you don't know, Pong was the mother of all video games in the 70s. A small pixel moving across your picture tube at lightning speeds, Home Pong was played via a console with two paddles that connected to your television set and was one of the first-ever video games, laying the groundwork for games such as Pac Man, Super Mario Bros. and Grant Theft Auto. And while the graphics in video games may have changed over the past four decades, the way we play them hasn't: until now.

Enter OnLive. OnLive is different. While you still have a small console that connects to your TV, throw away everything you've ever known about video games. OnLive is the Hulu of video games. It is the first console to be played exclusively over the Internet. Here's how it works: As you press the buttons of the game controller, data is sent to a server somewhere in the continental U.S. in near real-time to tell the game what to do next. While that's happening, the video is streamed back to your TV over the Internet, allowing you to control a video game on a computer hundreds of miles away while watching it on your own TV. It's "cloud" gaming.

For $99, you can purchase the OnLive game system, which comes with the console, its own game controller, adapter, batteries, charger and all the necessary cables. Currently, it also comes with a free video game of your choosing and "PlayPack" — a selection of games available for free until Jan. 14, 2011. A subscription is available after that.

Video games can also be purchased through the sleek user interface for about the same price you'd pay for Xbox or PlayStation games, and they can be rented for 3- or 5-day intervals for a small fee. Plus, you can even try out many of the games for 30 minutes at a time completely free. One thing of note: OnLive is very bandwidth intensive, meaning it requires a fast Internet connection, between 3-5 Mbps depending on your TV size.

But if $99 is too steep, fear not. OnLive can also be played without the console for free. If you have a fairly new PC or Intel-based Mac with fast Internet, you can download the OnLive app and play games with your computer via the keyboard or a third-party game adapter sans console. It's the future of gaming, available now. For more information, visit OnLive's website at

—Fletcher Holbrook contributed to this report